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I’d like to take a brief break from the series, The God Who Is Low and Humble in Heart, and investigate a passage of Scripture that caught my attention the other day.

“On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands. And I said to them, ‘Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the LORD your God. But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt” (Ezekiel 20:6–8).

Does anything there catch your eye? Do you know of any time when the Lord poured out His wrath upon His people while they were in Egypt? Now, it’s possible that He was referring to their 400 years of slavery in that nation. I wonder if it’s also possible that both Egypt and Israel suffered through the first three plagues: the water turned to blood, the frogs, and the gnats. All of those would have been extremely uncomfortable to live through. What should one do when all the available water is blood? (As a side note, the fact that both the Egyptians and God’s people suffered through these first three plagues has made me wonder about whether the Church will be raptured before the Tribulation. Just a thought.)

Regardless, it stuns me that, after all that the Lord did for the people of Israel, after having seen with their own eyes the incredible miracles that He did on their behalf, that they carried their idols with them when they left Egypt. Really? You walk through the Red Sea on dry land and you still don’t get it? How stupid can you get?

However, although they clearly were sinners, I don’t think they were stupid. Since I am one of God’s people now, I must ask the question, “Am I really smarter than the Jews were at that time? Is there something that I’m missing here?” If I am to maintain any credability concerning a humble heart, I must answer, “Yes.”

But what am I missing? I don’t worship idols—do I? Well, it’s true that there aren’t any little statues, gold or otherwise, on any of our shelves. I don’t pray to any God except our Father in heaven. I don’t trust in any gods to provide…wait a minute. Do I trust in another “god”?

What about money? Do I trust in it? I do have a retirement account, after all. What about my health insurance? Regardless of all the folderol recently about health insurance, it’s undeniably true that for most of human history and for a great portion of the world today, there has been no health insurance. What about this great country in which I live? How much trust do I place in it to help maintain my lifestyle and security?

Oy. How difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

The process of sanctification that Christians are called to is challenging. I’m still wondering why Paul wrote, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13). He wrote this after he had extolled Jesus in the previous verses, saying that His name was above every name and that every knee would bow before Him and every tongue confess that He is Lord. So, I must admit that I haven’t adequately understood that the reason I should work out my own salvation with fear and trembling is right there in the text: “…for it is God who works in you…” My problem is—my sin is—that I haven’t put proper emphasis on “it is God who works in you,” so that it has actually caused me to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. This truth has simply not engendered fear in me, not at all.

As it turns out, I am as stupid as the people of Israel. Stupider, in fact. It was more than miracles, plagues, and water parting that I’ve been aware of, it’s been the crucifixion and resurrection of God Himself, the most astounding event in the history of the world.

Oh, Lord, how far I am from understanding You. Please help me walk according to Your truth.

In fear.

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